Google will restrict access to an unofficial, unpublished Autocomplete API that developers have used to integrate autocomplete search functionality within their own applications.
The API was developed by Google "as a complement to Search," and Google says that it "never intended that it would exist disconnected from the purpose of anticipating user search queries."
Despite Google's intentions, developers reverse engineered the company's API and integrated it into their own applications. As it turned out, Google's autocomplete functionality has a variety of uses, and developers have employed it in a variety of ways.
Google could have immediately shut off developers using its unpublished API, but it didn't. Part of the reason for its patience is that the search giant has seen its unpublished APIs used in innovative ways that lead to the creation of official APIs. "There have been multiple times in which the developer community’s reverse-engineering of a Google service via an unpublished API has led to great things," Google's Peter Chiu explained in a blog post. "The Google Maps API, for example, became a formal supported API months after seeing what creative engineers could do combining map data with other data sources."
But Google decided the Autocomplete API was different. "Over time we’ve realized that while we can conceive of uses for an autocomplete data feed outside of search results that may be valuable, overall the content of our automatic completions are optimized and intended to be used in conjunction with web search results, and outside of the context of a web search don’t provide a meaningful user benefit," Chiu wrote.
So starting Aug. 10, Google will restrict access to the Autocomplete API, and developers who have integrated into their applications will need to find alternative solutions.
One solution that Google suggests is its Custom Search Engine offering, which the company says "allows sites to maintain autocomplete functionality in connection with Search functionality." Google CSE comes in two flavors, a free version and a premium version that starts at $100 per year, and is exclusive to search.
Because it's tied to search, Google CSE will not be a replacement for developers using autocomplete in nonsearch applications, but Google delivered developers left out in the cold an unapologetic message and reminder: "There are some times when using an unsupported, unpublished API also carries the risk that the API will stop being be available. This is one of those situations."